There is a small business in a small northeast Alabama town that is making a big difference. A Little Something Extra might look like an average ice cream truck but a closer look will reveal a greater purpose.
“We are changing the world with ice cream,” said owner Michelle Norwood.
Michelle Norwood started the business in 2018 while she was teaching at Crossville High School as a special education teacher. Looking back, Michelle Norwood has come a long way over the past 21 years. She had a business degree but decided to go back to school to become a special education teacher after her son Hunter was born with Down syndrome.
Some may say it was her calling to touch the lives of exceptional children in her community. There is no doubt she has done just that.
Just this year, Michelle Norwood left education to focus full-time on her ice cream business. She didn’t stop focusing on those with intellectual disabilities. The purpose of her business is to employ those who may not otherwise have opportunities. The employees are certified "ice cream experts" and must undergo training to work on the truck.
Along with Hunter, who is her CEO, and other employees with exceptionalities, Michelle Norwood stays busy. A Little Something Extra, named after the extra chromosome that people with Down syndrome have, is at all of the University of Alabama home football games, most of the Auburn University football games, and many other events around the state. In fact, they have been so busy at times that Michelle Norwood said they have had up to eight events in one day.
Both Michelle and Hunter visited Collinsville High School Thursday to share their story and to inspire students.
Hunter graduated in 2020 from Geraldine High School and he is already a CEO of a business. Although he said it is very hard work, he is thankful to have employment.
“It’s awesome,” said Hunter Norwood. “I like working with my friends, meeting new people and of course unlimited ice cream. Yes, I eat all the ice cream!”
Michelle Norwood said when Hunter was born doctors told her he would not be able to do things that she might expect him to do.
“Really they didn’t have the right to tell me what he would or wouldn’t do,” Michelle Norwood said. “Because no matter how we come into this world, we all come with a purpose.”
That’s why Michelle Norwood said she wants to be an advocate for all people with exceptionalities. She also wants to use her experience with her son as an example to all children and young adults with dreams.
“I remember someone telling me I was terrible at math when I was in the eighth grade,” Michelle Norwood told the class. “Suddenly, I thought, ‘I’m terrible at math.’ Then I just started thinking I wasn’t smart. I went onto college and I’m really not great at math, but I worked hard and I ended up having the highest grade in the class. I ended up with three graduate degrees. So, people, I’m just telling you, don’t let somebody define you with words. You can work so hard, and you can set your goals. It can be anything.”
Over the years, Michelle Norwood said she has learned that a disability should not stop a person from reaching their full potential. She told the class Thursday that “every disability has an ability.” She said it may take more time for them to learn tasks but she said a little help can go a long way, and she said many people with intellectual disabilities actually have special talents and gifts that no one else has.
“When I was a teacher, I helped my special ed students run the school snack store and those students were able to learn work skills and they were able to learn financial literacy skills but the best part of it all was that they got social opportunities,” Michelle Norwood said.
Hunter has now been working for A Little Something Extra for four years, proving anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
“It’s very hard … I make money,” said Hunter Norwood. “I buy anything I want. I have a device list.”
The mother-son duo is inspiring people in other ways as well. Michelle Norwood has written two books inspired by her son.
“Stars in my Eyes” takes the reader through the journey and milestones of Hunter’s life. The name of the book and overall theme is stars because a common characteristic of people with Down syndrome is Brushfield Spots. The spots are in the eyes and Michelle Norwood said she remembers the first time she noticed them in her son.
“I was holding that little baby and looked down and noticed his eyes,” explained Michelle Norwood. “It’s just a very beautiful look and it looks like stars.”
The second book, “Super Powers” was Michelle Norwood’s way of turning her son’s disability into a positive experience.
“This talks about the day that a baby is born with Down syndrome,” Michelle Norwood said. “But instead of using those two words, he says ‘super powers.”
Hunter Norwood is the subject of the book and his superhero “Chilled Storm Hunter” character is on the cover.
“Nick Saban has a copy of it,” Hunter Norwood said.
A little something extra was given to Hunter Norwood when he was born with an extra chromosome. And his mother, Michelle, has been sure to take that gift and spread it around to all she meets.
“It all started because God gave me a son with Down syndrome.,” Michelle Norwood added. “At first, I thought that my life had changed and not in a good way. But it wasn’t long before I realized my life had changed, but in a great way.”
To learn more about A Little Something Extra or to book an event, call (256) 601-7125, or email [email protected].
This story has taught us all that in Alabama, it doesn’t matter how small your town is or what challenges you have in life. All that matters is that you give it your all and love on others.
To connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email [email protected].
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